A project of the Child Trends News Service supported by the National Science Foundation

Are Old School Print Books Better Than E-Books?

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — About 25 percent of American families own e-readers, and 75 percent have electronic tablets that can download books and magazines, but are e-books the best way for young children to learn to read?

When it’s time to read to your child, do you go old school, or do you and your child prefer high-tech? Tiffany Munzer, MD, a pediatrics fellow at CS Mott Children’s Hospital, and her colleagues studied a group of two-year-old’s and their parents to learn more about their interactions during print and e-book reading.

“We think that toddlers are a really important age group to consider just because of their burgeoning executive functioning skills or burgeoning attentional capacity, which might make them more susceptible to some of the distracting enhancements that are found in electronic books,” Dr. Munzer told Ivanhoe.

The researchers found with e-books, families conversed less and focused more on the technology.

“We heard words like swipe that page, or tap that button, or don’t touch that page, or don’t exit the program,” detailed Dr. Munzer.

The researchers said with print books, parents made more connections between the book and real life. Dr. Munzer said if parents use e-books with young children, treat the tablet like a print book. Ask kids questions about the story. Have a back and forth conversation. These are strategies that help build early literacy skills.

Dr. Munzer said previous research that involved preschool-aged children suggested that print books provided more of what’s called dialogic reading than e-books. New research indicates that the effect is the same with even younger children.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Supervising and Field Producer; Roque Correa, Editor; Kirk Manson, Videographer.

Produced by Child Trends News Service in partnership with Ivanhoe Broadcast News and funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.

Research: https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/143/4/e20182012

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